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Three gimlet cocktails in coupes with lime wheels.
Photo by Travis Rainey, Food Styling by Tiffany Schleigh
  • Active Time

    2 minutes

  • Total Time

    2 minutes

Success has many authors, and so the classic gimlet cocktail recipe has an array of origin stories. Some credit Sir Thomas Gimlette, a British naval surgeon in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with inventing the drink. As that legend goes, Gimlette prescribed gin and lime juice to ocean-bound sailors at risk of scurvy, a condition caused by vitamin C deficiencies. Others say the cocktail recipe gets its name from a tool used to tap spirits barrels, and that members of the British Royal Navy began to combine alcohol and citrus juice on their own accord after the passage of the 1867 Merchant Shipping Act, which required all British ships to provide sailors with daily rations of lime juice. Either way, the gimlet recipe was immortalized in Harry Craddock’s 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book as equal parts gin and Rose’s Lime Cordial, then a bright and bracing mixer. Unfortunately, most bottled lime cordials became increasingly saccharine as the 20th century progressed; that’s why we suggest making your own lime cordial for this otherwise simple cocktail. While some craft a similar gin cocktail by combining dry gin with freshly squeezed lime juice and simple syrup, purists will tell you that’s more of a gin daiquiri than a proper gimlet.

That’s not to say you can’t customize your gin gimlet. Swap in a more juniper-forward London dry gin, or switch up the spirit in your cocktail shaker and make a vodka gimlet. Serve yours in a rocks glass over ice, or garnish with a strip of lime peel instead of a wheel. These tweaks might not be traditional, but if the last 150 years have taught us anything, it’s that gimlets endure.

This recipe was adapted for style from ‘Speakeasy’ by Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric. Buy the full book on Amazon. 

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What you’ll need


Makes 1 cocktail

2 oz. Plymouth gin
1 lime wheel, for garnish
  1. Combine 2 oz. Plymouth gin and ¾ oz. Lime Cordial in a cocktail shaker. Add large cold ice cubes and shake briefly but with conviction until well chilled, about 30 seconds. Strain into chilled coupe glass and garnish with lime wheel.

    Editor’s note: This lime cordial recipe first appeared on Epicurious in January 2012.

Cover of Speakeasy by Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric featuring a coupe glass with a brown cocktail and lemon wheel garnish.
Reprinted with permission from Speakeasy: The Employees Only Guide to Classic Cocktails Reimagined by Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric, © 2010 Ten Speed Press. Buy the full book from Amazon or Bookshop.
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